When I talked to Vision Critical SVP Matt Kleinschmit about the Quit Facebook campaign that grew out of the social-networking site's many privacy gaffes of late, he also talked about social networks as a means of advertising products and boosting one's brand. And just like those who are trying to figure out how social networks fit into their internal operations, marketing departments are trying to figure out how social networks fit into their advertising campaigns.
Social networks aren't like traditional media, and they shouldn't be treated as such. Instead of just placing advertisements on the network, Kleinschmit said:
Advertisers really should try to contextualize what their brand or product is within the networks themselves, preferably through an organic product or brand mention. When the consumer sees someone they know endorsing a product, it becomes one-to-one advocacy as opposed to just being present on the network...
He also noted that the impact regulation will have on the effectiveness of social media as an advertising channel will be determined, in large part by how well the industry can regulate itself. And by "industry," he meant Facebook, as the market leader and "the network with the most momentum." If it can do enough on the privacy issues to keep government pressure off, not much will change for advertisers.
If, however, the government has to step in and say what can be shared and what can't, or what can be used in a targeted advertising program and what's off limits, that's when advertisers will have to go back to their drawing boards.